A French artillery company commander with a wooden leg and still on active service, Captain Brechtel was part of the artillery battery covering the crossing of the Berezina in November 1812 and providing covering fire for General Eblé’s pontonniers, engineers, and sailors engaged in building the two trestle bridges across the river. One of his targets was the Russian artillery emplaced on the far bank, who were engaged in a counterbattery duel with the French artillery deployed on the right bank of the river.
During the fighting, General Rapp remembered, one of the artillery company commanders, a Captain Brechtel, ‘a brave officer with a wooden leg’ and ‘who did the whole campaign with a wooden leg which didn’t prevent him from mounting his horse’, was hit by a Russian artillery round in that very leg, carrying it away and knocking the intrepid artilleryman to the ground. Helped to his feet by one of his gunners, he ordered him to fetch a spare leg out of ‘wagon number five’ and he continued to give his fire orders to his battery by holding on to an artillery vehicle wheel, strapping on the spare leg when the gunner brought it back to him. Then the intrepid artillery carried on with his mission, undoubtely to the amazement of his gunners. This incident can be found in General Rapp's memoirs.